View Poll Results: About poles: have you

Voters
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  • Always used them

    82 68.91%
  • Never used them

    14 11.76%
  • Recently started using them (Why?)

    18 15.13%
  • Recently stopped using them (Why? Any knee pain?)

    5 4.20%
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Thread: A Poll about Poles

  1. #16
    Senior Member jbrown's Avatar
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    I too started using poles about 5 years ago. I use two (one in each hand... ) on most hikes, except if I have my dog with me.
    I feel that they help distribute the stress of hauling myself and gear on inclines, I actually pull with my arms when I'm going uphill and I plant them like ski poles on the downhills.
    I especially like them when trail running with a pack on, again, planting like ski poles and absorbing some shock when stepping down.
    He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth— the LORD God Almighty is his name. Amos 4:13

  2. #17
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    I feel qualified to respond to this thread.

    Let me start off by saying I'm a 2-pole man but didn't start using them until the venerable age of 46 or 47. I'm also a chiropractor and I get pat-fem pain. Oh, and I hike in the NE too.

    It wasn't until the age of 46 or 47 that I began hiking in the Adirondacks and I found the "trails" to be particulalry punishing, especially the downclimbs so I got a pair of poles. I have made extensive use of them in all sorts of conditions, have tried using only one, and sometimes leave them at home just to have free hands.

    Poles are very worthwhile to own and use. On the downhills they reduce stress on the knees (and hips etc.) by passing it up to the shoulders and arms. This IMO is the number one benefit of poles. On the uphills they can be used to transfer a portion of the load from the leg to the arm muscles. I don't use them for balance really (except for crossings) and often wonder if they dull my sense of balance but the OP is curious about knee pain.

    On the steeper, rocky downhills I lengthen them considerably and will plant them both, tighten my ab muscles, lean out hard and swing both legs down together. This spares the knees considerable stress and sometimes I have stiff abs and shoulder muscles the day after a hike. On more moderate grades I will plant them alternatively using the right pole to take load from the left knee and occasionally do a double pole plant.

    Someone mentioned straps and I agree 100%. For best biomechanical advantage my straps are usually real tight around my wrists. I take the load on the end of my forearms just before the wrist joint. This way I don't use the forearm and hand muscles hardly at all but rely on the bigger muscles above the elbow.

    Pole length is very important. On the trails I rarely see poles that are properly adjusted. Most of the time they are too long which decreases the efficacy of the muscles involved and necessitates (needless) shoulder girdle elevation with each step in order for the pole to clear the ground for the next plant. I adjust the length of my poles often. I used to have screw home fasteners but switched to flick-locks this summer hoping they will work better in winter than the scew homes.

    The lighter the poles used the better. There is a trade-off between strength and weight I suppose.

  3. #18
    Senior Member kmorgan's Avatar
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    I started using them around 8 or so years ago. I first found out about them while on my first winter hiking on some of the easier trails in NH (Mt. Major, Locke Hill). My wife and I were using side of the trail debris for hiking staffs to balance over icy sections. When we got to the summit of Mt. Major there was a hiker and his dog there making hot chocolate. We hiked down with him and he was using poles. I asked him about them and he was saying how great they were.

    A few years later after ACL replacement surgery on one of my knees, I found that the poles allowed me to get back on the trail much sooner than if I hadn't been using them. They have also saved me a number of times from a broken ankle by allowing me to quickly transfer all my weight to them.

    They are also indispensable if you have other knee problems (like me). Also, I could see getting injured and not being able to hike out without some sort of crutch/aid.

    Love 'em, use 'em all the time.

    Kevin
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  4. #19
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    sometimes use them

    ... but "sometimes use them" was not an option so "never use them" comes closer than any of the other choices.

    I'll occasionally grab a stick in the woods when I feel it'll be useful. Somehow my garage has a collection of favorite sticks, the most interesting being one that was carved at both ends by a beaver.

    I've borrowed my son's Lekis and experimented using one or two and found it more helpful to my balance than my knees and at this time I have concluded that it's not worth the bother to carry them.

    In snow I always hike/snowshoe with one, usually a xc ski pole.

    P.S. I do have some lingering knee, let's just say "awareness", from surgical repair of a torn meniscus in August. Hiking doesn't bother it at all though I can't comfortably run on it.
    Last edited by Stan; 12-22-2006 at 09:58 AM.

  5. #20
    Senior Member Pete_Hickey's Avatar
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    Poles reduce stress on joints? Muscles can as well. Before I hurt my knees (and again in the future), I try to land on the toes with the knee bent slightly. The foot absorbs some of the shock, and the upper leg absorbs the rest. It requires strong muscles, but it does take a tremendous amount of shock away from the joints. Very much my preferred method, but as I mentioned.

    I'm really hoping that my current knee injury will not leave me dependent on poles (the way the last injury left me dependent on the drugs)
    There's no place like 127.0.0.1

  6. #21
    Senior Member Dugan's Avatar
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    The pole poll missed an answer - I use poles sporadically, mostly on longer hikes and steep downs. Like Pete, I prefer to rely on strength and conditioning. Unfortunately, arthritis began to get the better of my knees several years ago, which is when I began augmenting natural ability with poles and knee braces. I can say with certainty that the better condition I'm in (as opposed to say... now ), the less knee pain I get, the less I use the poles.

    Neil has valid points about the straps. Properly worn and adjusted they can relieve an enormous amount of stress from the hands and lower arms. Even knowing that, I prefer not to use them. I'm worried I might fall and that not being able to drop the pole might injure me. Probably a small risk, but it did happen once - the only result was a slight wrench to my shoulder. But once out of all the miles of used them is pretty small odds.

  7. #22
    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
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    The poles I use most of the time have cane-like handles. I find they keep my hands in a more natural state than gripping the stick-like types.

    My one warning is don't use the straps. Take them off! When you use the straps and get the poles "tangled" around your feet (okay, so I'm a bit clumzy) you can't just let go of them, 'cause they're attached. After falling a few times for that very reason, I decided the only things straps should be used for is hanging the poles up. Sure, skiers strap their poles onto their arms, but hiking, for me, is different. I strap when I ski.
    Ellen

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    "Through winter-time we call on spring/And through the spring on summer call/And when abounding hedges ring/Declare that winter's best of all/And after that there's nothing good/Because the spring-time has not come... William Butler Yeats

  8. #23
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    poles

    I've been hiking since age 8, still hiking past age 50 . My husband & I first saw someone hiking w/ poles while hiking Saddleback about 10 years ago, and that guy was hiking really fast. Next day we hiked Washington, for the "upteenth" (spell check?) time but this time w/ rented poles. I've used poles ever since, in the Whites, WY, WVA, VA. Not wanting to become dependant upon the poles, and also wanting to continue to be a strong hiker, I adjusted my between-hikes workout, and have included more stretching and lifting, with careful attention to my knees. I think that's helped my hiking so much (I also swim, run & bike, but not with the poles .

    I always carry my poles, but take care to use them intentionally rather than automatically. I'll use them on most steep ups & downs, for water-crossings. I did not use them for Owl's Head slide, and I was most thankful to have left them behind as the poles would have been a huge hinderance to me.

    This summer I'm planning to hike Katahdin, my first time. Should I use the poles, or not I wonder? We'll be hiking up the AT to the summit.


    dottie

  9. #24
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    Alltho I make extensive use of the straps on the downhills you have to be very carefull not to snag your pole and wreck your shoulder. You'd think poles would be a PITA on bushwhacks and they are at times but I prefer using them.

    Strong muscles and good technique are much better for joints than weak muscles but strong muscles and properly adjusted and well utilized poles are even better!

  10. #25
    Senior Member JohnL's Avatar
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    I use poles predominantly in the winter and rarely in the summer, though I do carry them on long hikes (>15 miles) just in case. Carrying a heavier pack in the winter (heightens my center of gravity) and walking on non-solid footing leads to times when I need some extra balance help. Going without poles increases my sense of balance and strengthens the numerous balance muscles in the legs.

    I never, repeat never, use the straps, except to hang my poles on a tree or in the shed. I was cruising quite fast into the col between Field and Willey one winter when the basket caught on a snow buried branch and it brought me to a shoulder wrenching stop and landed me flat on my back. I would certainly trade a stronger grip and a dropped pole once in a while rather than risk a senseless injury.

    JohnL
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  11. #26
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eruggles
    The poles I use most of the time have cane-like handles. I find they keep my hands in a more natural state than gripping the stick-like types.

    My one warning is don't use the straps. Take them off! When you use the straps and get the poles "tangled" around your feet (okay, so I'm a bit clumzy) you can't just let go of them, 'cause they're attached. After falling a few times for that very reason, I decided the only things straps should be used for is hanging the poles up. Sure, skiers strap their poles onto their arms, but hiking, for me, is different. I strap when I ski.
    Most people find that proper use of the straps* reduces the stress on the hands and wrists. With the straps, one often does not need to grip the pole at all. Certainly true for me.

    I have used a real cane (in town, while a leg injury was healing)--IMO, the pole with strap is superior.

    Different poles for different folks...

    * Proper use of straps: bring hand up through strap from below. The strap fits between the thumb and forfinger between your hand and the pole handle. The pole need only be gripped lightly, and sometimes not at all. Essentially, all high forces are taken by the strap, not your hand.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 12-22-2006 at 11:21 AM.

  12. #27
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil
    Alltho I make extensive use of the straps on the downhills you have to be very carefull not to snag your pole and wreck your shoulder. You'd think poles would be a PITA on bushwhacks and they are at times but I prefer using them.
    I have taken the small baskets off of my hiking poles--they catch in the underbrush too often for my taste. I don't find the loss of flotation to be a serious problem.

    And yes, I do use ski baskets on snow. (But they still catch in the underbrush... )

    Doug

  13. #28
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    Different poles for different folks...
    Are you some sort of a basket case....?

  14. #29
    Senior Member trailbiscuit's Avatar
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    Poles rule!!!
    I use them every hike, every time. Good for my knees, help my balance, and I get a toned, sexy under body. (Better than a Bowflex.)
    "You must go and you must ramble through every briar and bramble till your life is in a shambles. Maybe then you will know. You were born to blunder, born to wander, born to wonder. Even when you’re six feet under, there’s a place that you must go." - John Hiatt

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  15. #30
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Ahh yes, the periodic pole thread... There are lots more if you search for them.

    I sometimes use them, sometimes not--depends on the terrain, my conditioning, how far I want to go, my fatigue level, etc. I have been known to take them on a hike and never use them... Other times, I may use them most of the time.

    I find them most useful for:
    * high step-ups to reduce the strain on the leg (primarily hip) muscles. (Double pole as you step up.)
    * somewhat useful for sustained uphill at a moderate grade
    * longish steps down to reduce the strain on the quads
    * energy absorbtion on long downhills
    * balance on logs, bog bridges, stream crossings, etc

    I find them not helpful for:
    * level walking (they make almost no difference)
    * situations where I need my hands directly on the rock or trees (stow the poles or collapse and hang from my arm/wrist)

    Used one at a time while walking, they tend to mess up my balance (because they must be placed off to the side)--my balance is better without. Balance is good in a double-pole. Also when a pole slips (say off a rock), it also messes up my balance.

    Where footing is complicated, it is even worse with poles--you now have 4 "feet" (2 unnatural) to control.

    Lots of good info on pole use and technique: http://www.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/poles.htm

    Doug

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